I write a lot about opinions. More precisely, I write about people not drawing a distinction between an opinion and fact. Because nothing sets me off more than someone making a declaration about something they know nothing about and stating it as Gospel.
So it was with great pleasure that I read Seth Godin's blog post "Is everyone entitled to their opinion?" Godin is a best-selling author who writes about marketing in a very refreshing way. Anyway, Godin says there are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to: Lack of standing and no credibility. If someone has no influence over your work (i.e. they aren't a respected art critic or a frequent purchaser of art) it is okay to ignore their opinion if they diss on your art. And ditto if their opinion isn't based on experience or expertise.
Amen. Finally someone has pointed out that just because you have an opinion it doesn't mean it matters. It is one of the problem with many people's interpretation of democracy. They think it means that everyone's opinion is equal and needs to be listened to. Wrong. It means the majority of the people with same opinion get to give the finger to the minority (at least on any given election day) that have a different opinion.
Now I don't think Godin was really talking about democracy in his blog post. He was determining whose opinion matters in relation to the product you are marketing. He uses an example of someone in Accounts Payable hating the company's new logo.Godin says if you are the person responsible for that logo you should (and must) ignore that opinion. That person isn't the target market for the logo.
At one level, Godin is trying to encourage people to do great work without worrying about the negative reaction from people who don't matter. After all, you can't please everyone, so you might as well please the ones writing the checks.
In a kind of related topic, I went with my family to see a Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum last weekend. I was kind of stoked because I had a somewhat limited and romanticized view of Gauguin. I knew he had hung out a bit with Van Gogh. And I knew he had ran off to Tahiti to paint.
As we moved around the gallery with the hordes of other art lovers with our audio tour devices I quickly discovered that Gauguin wasn't the romanticized character I'd pictured him as. He'd gone to Tahiti in an effort to produce enough commercial art that would appeal to the Paris market and keep him from having to get a real job. And since Tahiti was the paradise he'd envisioned (it was actually quite up tight due to the influence of religious missionaries) he made up stuff to paint and copied picture post cards he bought.
And in my opinion, his art kind of sucked. It seemed crude and contrived.
But my opinion doesn't matter. For one, Gauguin is dead and is beyond caring what I think, and his art is worth millions despite my opinion of it. Now if I was a mult-millionaire and donated large sums of money to the Seattle Art Museum, they might care that I don't like Gauguin's art. But because I am merely a dues paying member of the museum, my opinion only merits a blank stare and a call to security to "watch this guy."
But I digress.
In conclusion, I just want to say, "Bless you Seth Godin." Because the next time someone offers me their opinion and they have no standing in my universe or credibility, I am at liberty to say, "No thanks, I already have one."